Like you, I watched with horror as a violent mob stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday. Inflamed by white supremacy, misogyny, antisemitism, and homophobia, the rioters erupted like pus oozing from the infection that has been raging on this continent since Europeans arrived.

Looking at the disturbing images of the hate-filled insurrectionists, who were almost all white, I forced myself to acknowledge that they are, figuratively and likely literally, my distant cousins.

It was an urgent reminder that my commitment to collective liberation hinges on addressing the whiteness within me, the anti-Blackness in my blood.

We anti-racist white folks can…

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound from the cannabis plant that is used to treat physical pain and other ailments. Looking at the history of cannabis since it was outlawed in the U.S., our hearts can understand why resources generated by CBD and related products could (and should) also be used towards curing the pain caused by cash bail and other ills of our criminal “justice” and economic systems.

“The Hemp Business Journal estimates that the hemp CBD market totaled $190 million last year in a category that didn’t exist five years ago.” — Washington Post

Our economy was built on the genocide of indigenous people and the violent extraction of labor from enslaved Africans. This cruelty was justified by white people’s created illusion that those we killed, stole from, and enslaved were inferior and that white people were superior and therefore deserving of excess power and resources. These roots continue to feed our systems today, which produce more wealth and health for white people, and continued barriers, hardships, and disparities for people of color.

How does culture play into this story? How have white people extracted cultural riches from people of color and used those…

We have an education emergency in Asheville. Our dismal 2019 Youth Justice Project “Racial Equity Report Card” shows extreme academic and disciplinary disparities in our schools. It documents a clear lack of justice for Black students. These disparities are the worst in North Carolina, even with Asheville being the second-highest funded school in the state. This crisis is not new. Mountain Xpress, in their coverage of a joint City Council/Asheville School Board meeting about these disparities, reported that the data indicates “a worsening academic achievement gap between black and white students from 2014–18.”

Black children in our community deserve answers…

Today I add my voice to the chorus of people singing the true story of old-time and bluegrass music. It is a marvelously multicultural story, wrought with pain and possibility. We call for the repair of false and incomplete narratives which paint this music as a white cultural commodity. We hold hope for the positive potential of transformative truth.

Scott Family string band in Michigan, circa 1900

While I have been passionate about this topic for quite awhile, I was motivated to finally write about it after reading two quotes which, in my opinion, obscure the full roots of the music which is so much a part of…

What are strategies for cultivating authentic, caring community in Asheville? What are barriers to that cultivation? These are questions that have been pressing on me since I attended a West Asheville community meeting on August 9.

The meeting was initially planned to be another in a series of solution-based conversations about challenges facing the neighborhood. Due to unexpected actions from the City of Asheville days before the meeting, those conversations could not take place.

On August 7, the Firestorm Collective posted this message, “It’s official y’all, the City of Asheville is moving to shut down 12 Baskets Cafe: a program…

Engaging our empathy can be revolutionary. Empathy is a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened. Empathy can spark action for collective liberation.

Messages about empathy keep coming to me, most recently at the Reality Check Conference (click here for my article about it). Organized by Leslie Council Lake and Keynon Lake of My Sistah Taught Me That and My Daddy Taught Me That and a team of supporters, the conference offered a “reality check” about racism.

Leslie Council Lake speaking at the Reality Check Conference. Photo: Amanda Jo Cary.

The day began with a talk about empathy by Dr. Rebecca Bernstein. She outlined research showing how white people tend to show more…

I started shaving my legs in sixth grade, after an impassioned campaign begging my mom to let me. Other girls my age had shaved, smooth, hairless legs, and I desperately wanted to be like them. Images on T.V. and in magazines reinforced my desire. I can picture myself sitting in the school locker room, observing my classmates and feeling such longing to cross over into the world having shaved legs. As if removing my leg hair would actually give me the security of being accepted by others. As if it would make it possible for me to accept myself.

Awkward Ami in the 1980s.


Last week was the Black Mamas Bail Out. Across the country, organizers worked to free black mamas and caregivers “who otherwise would spend Mother’s Day in a cell simply because they cannot afford bail.” In Asheville, members and supporters of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) were able to bail three women out of the Buncombe County Jail.

This action helped raise awareness about the fundamental injustice of cash bail, and of the criminal justice system as a whole, specifically the ways it preys on people of color and people with low income. As the National Bail Out site explains, “Everyday…

Beer has spread like kudzu over Asheville, NC. We are drowning in a beer tsunami. In this moment, we can’t ignore the troubling implications of being Beer City U.S.A.

Asheville is #1 in smartasset’s 2017 Top 10 Cities for Beer Drinkers

Bloated with beer (and money from it)

A 2017 smartasset study on “best cities for beer drinkers” ranked Asheville as # 1 in the country, in part because we have so many breweries (38 at latest count). In fact, we have more breweries per capita than any city in the U.S.

Also in 2017, the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County released an analysis of the economic impact of the brewery…

Ami Worthen

a writer and collaborator following the call of collective liberation | she/her/ella |

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